[[caption-width-right:350:A Starving Artist [[SequentialArtist by a]] Starving Artist[[note]]Carl Spitzweg, "The Poor Poet"[[/note]]]]

->''"I'm a trained actor reduced to the status of a bum!''"
-->-- '''Withnail''', ''Film/WithnailAndI''

They've got [[PerpetualPoverty little money]], and lots of talent (or [[GiftedlyBad not]]). Being an artist isn't a career with steady pay, and art supplies are [[CrackIsCheaper expensive]]. Artists that haven't quite reached commercial success (or haven't gotten picked up by a wealthy patron) often live poorly.

Due to [[TruthInTelevision several influential artists having historically been starving artists]], the inherent dramatic potential of being talented but cash-deprived, and the appeal of living a life without material possessions, these portrayals are often quite romantic.

If they've got all of the starving but none of the talent, they're GiftedlyBad. If they are still in art school they are also a StarvingStudent. If they wear shabby clothes and eat mac & cheese because they're actively ''trying'' to project the image of being a struggling artist, they're probably a {{hipster}}.

Because MostWritersAreWriters, the Starving Writer is a common protagonist in these circumstances. If combined with OneHourWorkWeek (as it often is), the reader may come away with the impression that they'd have a better chance of making money if they ''[[BrilliantButLazy ever did any writing]]''.

If the Starving Artist has relatives, expect them to be pushing for the character to "grow up" and "get a real job". Generally, if success is elusive, expect them to eventually take up a [[WaitingForABreak steady but unfulfilling job]] with a boring, bourgeois lifestyle, or to [[TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth die tragically]].

See also BrilliantButLazy, for the genius who has no money because they don't apply themselves, and ReclusiveArtist.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* In ''Anime/{{Doraemon}}'', the title character and Nobita go back in time to help a starving artist at least once, and on another occasion tried to use time travel to buy the works of a now famous (and obscenely rich) painter. [[spoiler: They ended up buying a painting made by Nobita's father, who apprenticed under the artist as a college student.]]
* Kia Freeborn from ''Anime/HeatGuyJ''. He works several odd jobs, while trying to become a famous guitarist. Incidentally, Kia once ''did'' lead a very comfortable and pampered life (also, Kia is ''not'' his birth name), until his father (a famous musician) fell victim to the SexDrugsAndRockAndRoll trope, and eventually left his wife when he got TheMistress pregnant, and started a new life with ''her'', leaving Kia and his mother in the lurch.
** Another character is a (supposedly talented) poet who borrowed money from TheMafia, ostensibly to work on his poems and make a better life for himself and [[YamatoNadeshiko his girlfriend]], but ended up [[TheGamblingAddict gambling it all away]] and having a huge debt to pay back. He tries pleading with Clair to allow him to either get an extension on the repayment or get the debt forgiven. Clair agrees, on the condition that the poet write him a poem that's to his liking. (None of the poems are, needless to say. To be fair, they were pretty painful to listen to, but it's unlikely that Clair, being the SmugSnake that he is, would have forgiven the debt even if the poet ''had'' written genuinely wonderful poems.) The poet gets a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech from Clair and is (literally) thrown out the door where his girlfriend is waiting.
* One VictimOfTheWeek in ''Anime/SailorMoon Super S'' was this trope. He was starving because his drawings were ''too'' realistic for people to believe them accurate (think self-delusion or inflated ego). When he collapses in front of Usagi, she takes him home and (for only the second time) cooks curry. In spite of its horrid appearance, he joyously scarfs it down. Few later he's "hired" by Vesves, who has targeted him under the disguise of a RichBitch; when he refuses to make a portrait of her on the grounds that there's something fake in her beauty and he won't paint it, she attacks him.
* In ''Literature/{{Gate}}'', Risa is a doujinshi artist, but she can barely afford to pay her electric and heating bills and often has nothing to eat but soy milk and cereal.
* Satoru Fujinuma is one in ''Manga/{{Erased}}''. He's had one hit manga, but has mostly been in a slump, with his editor telling him that his stories don't seem to connect for some reason. He works part time as a pizza delivery driver to help make ends meet in the meantime.

* ''The Poor Poet'' (pictured above) is a painting by [[UsefulNotes/DichterAndDenker Carl Spitzweg]] that depicts this.
* Many real life painters lived near poverty and depicted their harsh living circumstances in their work: Creator/VincentVanGogh, Creator/HenriDeToulouseLautrec, ...

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Wallace from ''ComicBook/SinCity'' is an artist who has a great deal of talent but his perverted boss demands that he make pornographic artwork. He refuses and barely has enough cash to scrape together. Dwight, an aspiring photographer had the same problem with the same boss.
* UndergroundComics artist Creator/DoriSeda.
* Kuno Klecksel from Creator/WilhelmBusch's stories, sometimes
* The Swedish edition of ''Magazine/MADMagazine'' ran a comic in the early '80s set in Konstfack, the University Of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. One of the classes shown was teaching the students this trope, such as surviving an entire week on a glass of ketchup, and painting your semester final project, a mouth-watering oil painting of a three course dinner made out of food-scented wax after a month of starvation. Needless to say, the students taking that class are somewhat worse for wear.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* Dame Lyra Heartstrings of ''FanFic/RainbowDoubleDashsLunaverse'' is ''not'' this trope, but seems unable to convince her friend Dame Trixie that she actually does make plenty of money. Though even Lyra will admit that while her work pays well, the hours can be pretty random, and she does sometimes run into cash-flow problems.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Tony Hancock's character in ''Film/TheRebel'' has a hard time getting by in Paris until a fellow artist's work is mistaken for his, at which point he becomes the toast of the town.
* Creator/GeneKelly as Jerry Mulligan in ''Film/AnAmericanInParis''.
* ''Film/WithnailAndI'' has the protagonists.
* ''Film/SunsetBoulevard'' has Joe Gillis as a starving Hollywood screenwriter.
* The protagonists of ''Film/DesignForLiving'', played by Creator/GaryCooper and Fredric March, are a starving painter and playwright respectively. March proudly declares "I write unproduced plays," and Cooper freely admits his annual salary is zero and that he survives "on miracles."
* The Bohemians in ''Film/MoulinRouge'' -- all of whom are so absinthe-addled and otherwise quirky that it's not hard to see how they can't keep steady employment even in world Montmarte.
* The protagonist in ''Film/ThePianist''.
* The eponymous protagonist of ''Film/InsideLlewynDavis'' lives a hand-to-mouth, semi-vagrant existence crashing on the couches of acquaintances and relatives, at least those that he has not completely antagonized yet.
* Reno, the VillainProtagonist of ''Film/TheDrillerKiller'', barely makes a living out of selling his paintings, which actually don't sell. This is just the start of his descent into a madman on a power-tool-fueled killing spree.
* Émile Zola and Paul Cézanne are doing this in 1937's ''The Life of Émile Zola'', to the point that the opening scene looks like a ShoutOut to ''Theatre/LaBoheme''.
* Jerry and Joe from ''Film/SomeLikeItHot'' are poor musicians in Chicago who have to sell their coats to make ends meet.

* Two old actors are sitting on a bench. One says: "How long has it been since you had a job?" The other actor says "Thirty two years -- how about you?" The first actor says, "That's nothing. I haven't had a job in forty years!" The other says, "One of these days we've got to get out of this business!"

* Jack in the book ''Two O'Clock Eastern Wartime''. All three of the protagonists are-- one is a novelist, one is a man looking to have a radio show, and the other is a singer, and they are barely scraping together money to survive.
* In one of Creator/MarkTwain's short stories, there are two starving artists who decide to con their way into getting money. They make a bunch of art and manufacture a story about how the artist who painted these things is fatally ill. [[DeadArtistsAreBetter Naturally, the artist in question eventually "dies", and his paintings become valuable overnight.]]
** This really happened. Look up [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ern_Malley Ernest Malley]].
* ''Scenes de la Vie de Boheme'' is a novel by Henri Murger about 4 different starving artists that was inspiration for ''Theatre/LaBoheme''.
* The title character of Creator/FranzKafka's ''The Hunger Artist'' not only doesn't make much for his completely under-appreciated art form, he represents this trope in the most literal way imaginable by using self-starvation as his medium. Kafka himself was an example.
** Though Kafka's art wasn't his livelihood, and he never even attempted to publish his works, and ordered them destroyed in his will - a clause which thankfully wasn't fulfilled.
** Also note that Kafka actually had pretty well-paying and thoroughly bourgeous job as an insurance agent, which he, however, felt to be empty and unfulfilling, thus turning his passion to writing.
* Creator/JamesJoyce lived much of his life in poverty, and by extension his AuthorAvatar Stephen Dedalus, in ''Literature/{{Ulysses}}'', does as well.
* ''Literature/OfHumanBondage'' has the protagonist and all of the supporting characters in this situation at some point; the view of the artist ranges from one committing suicide because they have completely starved, and the others romanticizing it and foolishly comparing it all to Theatre/LaBoheme.
* In Creator/DorothyGilman's ''Literature/TheClairvoyantCountess'', Madame Karitska's landlord is this, which is why he has to have her rent on time.
* The protagonists of the Literature/JasonKeltner mysteries start out as a starving musician, a starving artist and a starving actor, and get drawn into mysteries when Jason is set up to take the fall or otherwise fail. Years later they become comfortable on steady commercial work; far from starving, but also far from what they envisioned as success.
* In ''Literature/VenissUnderground'', Nicholas starts the novel as an unsuccessful holo artist, dependent on loans from his sister.
* Creator/KnutHamsun wrote the novel ''Hunger'' in 1890, telling the story of a writer who...
---> Went around in Christiania, starving.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''Series/{{Seinfeld}}'', Elaine's ex-boyfriend was an artist. She remarks that he's pretty fat for an artist. Most of the time when the GirlOfTheWeek was an artist on Seinfeld, there were remarks that it was probably why their work was expensive.
* One PatientOfTheWeek on ''Series/{{House}}'' was an artist who couldn't sell any of his work and participated in clinical trials to get money so he could hide this from his girlfriend.
* The blonde dad from ''Series/MyTwoDads'' was this and was called this by the brunette dad.
* In an episode of ''Series/TheGoldenGirls'' Blanche gives money to an artist she meets in the waiting room at the mental health clinic who had burned all his brushes to stay warm. [[spoiler:He turns out to be a compulsive liar.]]
* Richard in ''Series/CarolineInTheCity'', scraping by on being Caroline's colorist while waiting for his break. One episode addressed it directly, when a doodle he made and accidentally sent in with Caroline's comic generated some interest, Richard flat-out refused. Richard said he didn't want to sell out; Caroline wondered if he wasn't just in love with the whole romantic idea of the Starving Artist.
* Brian Topp in ''Series/{{Spaced}}''. His work is inspired by "anger... pain... fear... aggression..." and is "a bit more complicated" than watercolours. His PerpetualPoverty once left him unable to pay the rent and required him to make an, ahem, ''[[TheNoodleIncident arrangement]]'' with his [[AbhorrentAdmirer landlady]]. He's never been able to live it down.
* When Caitlin gets a VisitByDivorcedDad in ''Series/CaitlinsWay'', he is a potter and his lack of money gets him blamed for a counterfeit scam.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The episode "Vincent and the Doctor" focused on the starving artist Creator/VincentVanGogh. As mentioned in the RealLife section, Van Gogh's paintings never sold well when he was alive, and the episode focuses heavily on the man's mental health on account of this, his depression, and his psychic visions which makes him seem crazy.
** The Fourth Doctor, "[[ProductionNickname the bohemian]]", borrows heavily from the romanticised image of this character type in terms of his scruffy physical appearance, fashion sense, interests (art, poetry, music, acting - he is one of only a few Doctors who show any interest in creating art himself) and other superficial personality traits. The original concept for his costume design was the famous poster of Aristide Bruant by Creator/HenriDeToulouseLautrec. His actual personality is much weirder than this, though.
* Wendy Watson in ''Series/TheMiddleman'', which is the plot driver for her to take the job at the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Temp Agency. To a lesser extent, her young, photogenic, animal activist room-mate Lacy Thornfield.
* In ''Series/FawltyTowers'', Polly does sketches, but doesn't sell enough to let her quit her [[DysfunctionJunction hectic]] waitressing job.
* The [=HBO=] series of the same name portrays the ''Music/FlightOfTheConchords'' as broke artists and plays it for laughs. In the episode, "New Cup", they can't pay rent this month because Bret bought a cup, not an unusual expensive cup, a regular cup. In the finale, they get evicted not because they didn't pay rent, but because they were paying in New Zealand dollars. Though [[StylisticSuck they're bad]] and not GiftedlyBad so much as comically bad.
* in the ''Series/InsideNo9'' episode "Tom and Gerri", Gerri is an actress who's been unemployed for several months and owes her boyfriend a lot of money (which causes tension between them.) She's reduced to auditioning for the part of "D-Day Doris" in a play touring retirement homes, because she can't find any other work.
* Stuart from ''Series/TheBigBangTheory'' is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and a talented illustrator, considering the quite stunning sketch of Penny he did back in season one. He's also spent most of the series' run stuck in PerpetualPoverty, as [[LocalHangout the comic store he runs]], which is also his primary source of income, tends to barely allow him to make ends meet. [[ThrowTheDogABone Occasionally his luck does improve, though.]]

* ''Theatre/LaBoheme'', the famous 1896 opera, as well as ''Theatre/{{Rent}}'', its [[SettingUpdate modern update]].
* ''Theatre/MySisterEileen'' and TheMusical ''Theatre/WonderfulTown'' have Ruth Sherwood, an aspiring young writer whose stories don't come back only when she can't pay the return postage, and her sister Eileen, a would-be actress. They don't get much choice in what food they eat, and have difficulty coming up with money for subway and bus fares.
* In ''Theatre/CyranoDeBergerac'', Cyrano is a talented artist/writer. He's still dirt poor because he spends most of his time writing satiric letters that insult everyone he sees as false -- which is everyone. His willingness to spend an entire month's allowance on a single grand gesture doesn't help either. The poets who frequent Raguenau's company are less sympathetic examples: [[FalseFriend they claim to love his poetry]] but only want to eat his food for free.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* EmoTeen Meridian in ''VideoGame/TelepathTactics'' bemoans this fate, and discusses it with Harynx in one scene.
-->'''Harynx:''' The way you capture the moonlight on those bushes...I don't know anyone who can draw like that. You've got talent. You could be an artist.\\
'''Meridian:''' No. I tried being an artist, and I failed. Talent doesn't mean anything if no one buys your work. You can't eat talent.\\
'''Harynx:''' I didn't need anyone's permission [to do what I wanted in life]. And you don't either. We're not slaves; we're free! We can choose to do whatever we want with our lives.\\
'''Meridian:''' Yeah, okay. Great. Are we free from hunger? From the elements? Are we free from the necessity of selling off our days to other, wealthier people for the money to keep ourselves alive? No slaver's going to kill me if I decide to return to drawing. They don't have to. Starvation's waiting just around the corner with a cudgel, and it's happy to do the job.
* Yusuke Kitagawa from ''VideoGame/{{Persona 5}}'' is an artist who's literally starving, not because of any lack of skill or interest in his art, but because his mentor/adoptive father Madarame steals all the credit and profit from his work and leaves him overworked and poor. Even after Madarame is taken down by the Phantom Thieves, Yusuke [[RunningGag is still seen constantly eating in the background and gets excited at the mention of food.]]
* Laurel (Laurent in the NES translation) from Torneko/Taloon's chapter in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestIV'' is a [[TheBard traveling poet]] who decides to take up work as a mercenary because poetry doesn't pay the bills.
* Passpartout: The Starving Artist Simulator is a game about, well, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin a starving artist]] in France with an unhealthy addiction to fine wine and baguettes. The player has to draw the paintings themselves in order to pay their bills. No [[QuickTimeEvent quick time events]], no puzzles, not even a template! You have to draw from scratch, and a machine-learning AI judges your work accordingly based on pictures from the internet and your previous work.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* There's a homeless artist ("Will paint for food") in ''Webcomic/LeastICouldDo''. The character is based on Lar [=deSouza=], a friend of the author who really was a homeless artist for a time. Years after the creation of the character, [=deSouza=] took over as artist for the comic strip.
* In ''Webcomics/KoanOfTheDay'', the guru never [[http://www.koanoftheday.com/172/ has any money]].
* Crusader in ''Jay And Crusader''.
* ''Webcomic/LivingWithInsanity'': [[http://www.livingwithinsanity.com/index/ David]] has no day job, he just makes comics with Paul. But it's shown this nets them no income.
* Creator/AndrewHussie of ''Webcomic/MSPaintAdventures'' has a bit of this in that he needs to regularly put out new merchandise to cover the costs of all the bandwidth his fanbase generates.
* In ''Webcomic/ThreeJaguars'', Artist would be this, if the Business Manager let her.
* In ''Webcomic/SquidRow'', Randie ekes out a living from her jobs.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* The WebVideo/KeyOfAwesome parody of "Somebody That I Used To Know" has an entire band of them.
-->''We look so sad because we're starved\\
Tonight for dinner we're splitting a candy bar.''

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* After Squidward quits his job in ''WesternAnimation/SpongebobSquarepants'', he becomes a starving artist. [[PlayedForLaughs No one wanted his paintings so he had to eat them.]]
* Music/FlightOfTheConchords play Art Camp counsellors in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''. It turns out that when Art Camp is out they work at [[BlandNameProduct Sprubway]], where they get all the sandwiches that drop on the floor.
-->'''Bret''': Unless we drop them on purpose.\\
'''Jemaine''': They have cameras on us all the time.
* In the late 50s, Gene Deitch created Gaston Le Crayon for the Creator/{{Terrytoons}} studio. Gaston was an impoverished, unlucky French artist who made things come to life by painting or drawing them.
* Discussed at the Academy of Art during ''WesternAnimation/DanVs [[Recap/DanVsS1E15DanVsArt Art]]''.
-->'''Clerk:''' Are you trying to bribe me... with a sandwich?\\
'''Dan:''' Come on, aren't you a starving artist? It's a really good sandwich.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* One example in particular is Creator/VincentVanGogh, who used the very little money he made to buy art supplies and lived on coffee and absinthe. As if his mental health wasn't bad enough, poor nutrition made his physical health that much worse.
** This was [[DoingItForTheArt chiefly a personal decision]], though, as he largely lived on the support from his brother Theo, a quite successful art dealer, and didn't want neither to inconvenience his brother too much, nor [[TrueArt compromise his artistic integrity]] for [[MoneyDearBoy more financially rewarding styles and themes]]. Had he agreed to make his art [[TrueArtIsIncomprehensible more accessible to the public of the time]], he wouldn't have this much of financial problem.
* Music/PinkFloyd aka David Gilmour fit this trope pretty well in his pre-Floyd days, to the point that he was ''[[http://www.megapinkfloyd.com/band_members_david_gilmour.asp hospitalized for malnutrition]]'' in 1966.
* Music/NickDrake spent much of the latter part of his life living with his parents off of a £20-a-week retainer from Island Records. Eventually that stopped too.
* Many webcomic artists and indie game developers tend to be this (or support their job with a steady job like retail). The few artists one hears about spending several years of pure work on something generally aren't as starving as one thinks. For instance, the creator of Braid was able to spend the two years working on just Braid because he was able to spend 200K of his own money on the project.
* Alfons Mucha, rather than keeping his cushy job with Gandegg, first studied in Austria and then at Paris where his subsidy was cut off. He lived on one meal every other day, making this exactly what it says on the tin. He did it all For The Art, and wished he didn't have to do so many advertisements.
* It may only reference the trope, but there is a chain of cafes called the Starving Artist Café.
* Music/KurtCobain was actually homeless during some points of his life. He would sneak into apartment buildings in the middle of the night and sleep in the hallways.
* Music/NeilYoung had an early period of this and after the Mynah Birds fell apart [[note]]Their manager used the advance money to buy drugs; then Rick James (yes that Rick James) got busted for being AWOL from the Navy[[/note]], had to sell his equipment just to buy food.
* In his younger years Creator/JulesVerne was this, after he dropped from studying law, devoting himself to literature and Parisian boheme, and his father, a wealthy provincial lawyer who hoped that he would inherit a family practice, cut the financial support. To feed himself and his new family, Verne had to turn to stock exchange, where he had to make a living as a stock broker until he had a big break with the ''Literature/FiveWeeksInABalloon''. Just as with Kafka above, while he was quite successful at this job, he hated it immensely.
* Invoked by the father of children's book illustrator Creator/EzraJackKeats. Ezra's father worked at a restaurant and, while supportive of his son's love of art, was skeptical about him trying to making a living from that. He even went as far as to give young Ezra tubes of paint, claiming that starving artists traded those to him in exchange for food.